Genesis 3:14-15

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

The Adamic Covenant conditions the life of fallen man—conditions which must remain till, in the kingdom age, “the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). The elements of the covenant are:

  1. The serpent, Satan’s tool, is cursed (v.14; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; Revelation 12:9) and becomes God’s graphic warning in nature of the effects of sin—from the most beautiful and subtle of creatures to a loathsome reptile. The deepest mystery of the cross of Christ is strikingly pictured by the serpent of bronze, a type of Christ “made sin for us” in bearing the judgment we deserved (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
  2. The first promise of a Redeemer (v.15). Here begins the “highway of the Seed”: Abel, Seth, Noah (Genesis 6:8-10), Shem (Genesis 9:26-27), Abraham (Genesis 12:1-4), Isaac (Genesis 17:19-21), Jacob (Genesis 28:10-14), Judah (Genesis 49:10), David (2 Samuel 7:5-17), Immanuel-Christ (Isaiah 7:10-14; Matthew 1:1, 20-23; John 12:31-33; 1 John 3:8).
  3. The changed state of the woman (v.16), in three particulars: (a) multiplied conception; (b) sorrow (pain) in motherhood; (c) the headship of the man (cp. Genesis 1:26-27). Sin’s disorder makes necessary a headship; it is vested in man (Ephesians 5:22-25;
    1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:11-14).
  4. The light occupation of Eden (Genesis 2:15) changed to burdensome labor (Genesis 3:18-19), because of the earth’s being cursed (3:17).
  5. The inevitable sorrow of life (v.17).
  6. The brevity of life and the tragic certainty of physical death to Adam and all his descendants (v.19; Romans 5:12-21. — Scofield, page 7.

eat dust (v.14) — a term of humiliation

It should be noted … that all other animals were brought under the curse at this time, though none of them had “sinned.” The serpent was merely cursed “above all” the rest, but “every beast” henceforth had the “sentence of death” in is members. Each was part of man’s dominion and it was by man’s sin that death came into the world, infecting everything in that dominion. — Morris, page 3

enmity (v. 15) = from the same root as “enemy”

By persuading them to follow his word instead of God’s word, Satan [may have] believed that he had now won the allegiance of the first man and woman and therefore also of all their descendants. … Satan was now the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the woman especially, who was to bear the earth’s future children, would readily follow him. … But if such thoughts as these were in Satan’s mind, he was not only the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9), but he himself was deceived most of all. The woman, in the first place, would not become his willing ally. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” God said. Neither would she rule over her husband. “They desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Conception and childbirth would not be easy and rapid. “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow, and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” — Morris, pages 119-120.

The term “seed” of course has a biological connotation, but this is not strictly possible here. Neither Satan, who is a spirit, nor the woman would be able to produce actual seed; only the man was created physically to do this. These two seeds, therefore, must refer primarily to spiritual progeny.

Specifically, it appears that Satan’s see consists of those who knowingly and willfully set themselves at enmity with the seed of the woman. They partake in a very specific sense of the character of the Adversary (John 8:44; Ephesians 2:2-3) and seek to oppose God’s purpose in creation and redemption.

The “seed of the woman,” on the other hand, would refer in the first place to those in the human family who are brought into right relationship with God through faith, children of the Father. The prophecy forecasts the agelong conflict between the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one, beginning with Cain and Abel (Matthew 13:37-40; 1 John 3:8-12), and continuing to the end of the age (Revelation 12:17).

The primary seed of the woman is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is not the seed of the serpent, but Satan himself, who battles and is destroyed by this Seed, according to verse. 15. 

There is clearly an inference of human birth here; in fact, verse 16 mentions the sorrow that would attend conception of the woman’s children. It is also clearly implied that someday one would be supernaturally conceived and born of a virgin. This promised Seed would not partake of the inherited sin nature of Adam’s children, but would nevertheless be a man. He would not be born under Satan’s dominion as would other men, and would thus be able to engage the Serpent in mortal combat. Finally, though bruised in the conflict, He would emerge as victor, “bruising” (literally crushing) the Serpent’s head, destroying the works of Satan and setting the captives free!

This promise is, of course, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He appeared to be mortally wounded when He died on the cross, but He rose again and soon will return to cast the devil into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). And in His very dying, “bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5), He satisfied the just requirements of God’s holiness. He died for the sin of Adam, and therefore also for the sin of all who were “in Adam.” “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). — Morris, pages 121-122

There is an implied reference to this great prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, which should read: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” The definite article before “virgin” indicates one that was previously promised. Similarly in Jeremiah 31:22: “For the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth. A woman shall compass a man.” An ordinary conception would not be a new thing. 

The promised Seed would one day be born of a human woman, but Satan was left in the dark as to which woman and at what time. Both he and Eve may have thought initially it would be her firstborn son. Later on, as the centuries passed, Satan continued his attacks against all the males born in the promised line, particularly those who were objects of special prophetic interest (e.g. Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David), in case one of them might be the promised Seed. — Morris, page 122.

Though Adam might, and, through grace, did, see and feel that he could never accomplish all that had to be done, yet God revealed Himself as about to achieve every jot and tittle thereof by the seed of the woman. In short, we see that he graciously took the entire matter into His own hands.

He made it altogether a question between Himself and the serpent; for although the man and the woman were called upon individually to reap, in various ways, the bitter fruits of their sin, yet it was to the serpent that the Lord God said, “Because thou hast done this.” The serpent was the source of the ruin, and the seed of the woman was to be the source of the redemption. Adam heard all this and believed it, and, in the power of that belief, “he called his wife’s name the mother of all living.” — Mackintosh, page 58.

Though one may describe God as “punishing” all three, God’s words to Satan are characteristic of judgment (which always proceeds from condemnation), whereas His words to Adam and Eve are characteristic of chastisement (which always proceeds from love, never condemnation). As characteristic of God’s expression of judgment throughout the Bible, so too here God’s words to Satan express the ideas of complete defeat (i.e., “dust you shall eat,” which, as in Micah 7:17, is here figuratively intended) and absolute diminution of life—which is the exact antithesis of blessing (i.e., the expansion and enhancement of life), and hence, not surprisingly, here explicitly associated with “cursing” (i.e., “cursed are you…”). By contrast, it should be noted, God does not directly curse Adam or Eve, since this would be inconsistent with the fact that He has already blessed them; rather, He curses the ground so that the added labor and difficulty by which Adam derives his sustenance will be a constant reminder of his sin, as well as God’s paternal love (in not cursing him), and thus both a deterrent to further sin as well as a motivation to loving obedience. — Wechsler, page 105. 

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